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Adam Castleton

Digital Strategist

Why your conversion rate is probably misleading you

There are many metrics that businesses talk about when discussing the overall performance of their website. However, when we speak to businesses, there are always two specific metrics that they mention off the top of their heads. Traffic levels and conversion rates. There are plenty of different services that will accurately measure how many people are visiting your website. The problem is, conversion rate is a little bit more complex than you might think.

Conversion rate is generally understood to align with the following formula:

Conversion Rate = Website Goal Completion / Number of Visits

Even free services such as Google Analytics give this sort of information and typically this is the metric that most businesses will look at to prove online success. Measuring your conversion rate, and then optimising it (known as conversion rate optimisation - CRO) is a fantastic way to help improve your websites overall performance. We advocate this, but in isolation, it can be a very misleading metric. Heres why.

Conversion Confusion

Digital marketeers typically invest their budgets on traffic sources that manage to convert at the highest rate. This is called ‘last click attribution’ and is what 95% of businesses are doing. It’s the traditional way of doing things and seems to make sense, you’ll likely be getting a better ROI on these channels right? Not necessarily. The 7 most expensive words in business are: “We have always done it that way”

When you analyse the browsing behaviors of your visitors, it’s very likely that many of them will actually need to visit your website multiple times before reaching a goal/converting. This will be most significant in competitive or price sensitive markets, but does apply to everyone.

When people visit your website multiple times, it’s very likely that they have come from different sources on each occasion. For example, it’s common for someone to find a site through PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, leave, and then come back via a brand name organic search on Google. Often customer journeys are much more complex than this - but you get the general idea :)

So How Can I Track These Fragmented Conversions?

Using the last click attribution, Google Analytics will be telling you that in the above scenario, your PPC traffic is converting poorly, and organic traffic converting highly. In this instance, if you were to switch off your ‘poorly-converting’ PPC advertising, your converting traffic will start to plummet. This is one of the reasons why PPC has a bad name for some and is seen as overly expensive.

If you track your traffic sources across multiple visits, you can start to develop an accurate picture of what marketing channels are contribution to a multi-visit conversion. This is called an Assisted Conversion because each source plays a part in securing the customer or lead. This overall approach is called Beyond Last Click and can be visualized in Google Analytics using Multi-Channel Reports and Attribution Models. The great thing is, it works out of the box so long as you have decent Goal Tracking in place.

Log-in to Google Analytics and start exploring the Multi-Channel reports to see your ‘beyond last click’ conversion rate. It is far less misleading than the generic conversion rate metric.